September 19, 2010

Racine's Marine hero, Harold Agerholm, saved 45

By Randolph D. Brandt

Maj. John Jerstad was one of two Medal of Honor recipients from Racine recognized for heroism in World War II.

Marine Private First Class Harold C. Agerholm also received the nation’s highest military honor, again, posthumously.

It’s said that everyone can be brave once, but Pvt. Agerholm was brave at least 45 times.

Over the course of three hours, on Saipan in the Mariana Islands, fighting against the Japanese, that’s how many fellow Marines he saved as he repeatedly braved enemy fire to retrieve wounded comrades on the field of battle.

Agerholm landed on Saipan three days after D-Day. With the battle for the island raging for three weeks, the enemy launched a vigorous counter-attack on July 7, 1944. When a neighboring battalion was overrun, Pvt. Agerholm volunteered to help evacuate casualties. For three hours, he used a commandeered ambulance to single-handedly evacuate 45 casualties while under intense Japanese fire.

On his final run to evacuate fellow Marines, he was felled by a Japanese sniper.

The United States Marines and the U.S. Navy didn’t forget Private Agerholm’s sacrifice.  In addition to the Jerstad-Agerholm school in Racine, two other significant memorials carried Private Agerholm’s name.

There’s the Harold C. Agerholm Memorial Gun Park at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and the destroyer USS Agerholm, left, commissioned in 1946 and decommissioned in 1978, after earning four battle stars for Korean War service and eight for tours off Vietnam. It later was sunk in missile practice exercises.

Randolph D. Brandt is the retired editor of the Journal Times, and a member of Phi Alpha Theta, recognizing conspicuous scholarship in the field of history.

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  1. How about an article on John Gross also from Racine who was awarded the Navy Cross on Tarawa?

  2. Anon 4:17,

    Did some quick checking for now, and here's an address for Tarawa On The Web that describes John Gross' heroic conduct during the first 36 hours of the invasion of "Bloody Tarawa," where he was responsible for virtually all radio communications coordinating troops onshore and Naval support.